Black citizens must have conversation among themselves before requesting one with other races

June 25, 2015

Comforting words evoked at vigil for Charleston’s victims

Attendees at the prayer vigil at St. Mark’s AME Church.

African Americans have experienced racially moti- vated violence for so long that some devout Chris- tians, in trying to under- stand the inexplicable, have come to the erroneous con- clusion that the shooting of nine black church mem- bers by a white supremacist was somehow God’s will. No, this was the work of a mentally unstable racist with a gun and lots of bul- lets. God did not will that that trigger be pulled again and again.

The statement that the shooting was “God’s will” was repeated many times during an interfaith vigil held June 22 at Wisconsin’s oldest African American church, St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. At times when one is called upon to offer comforting words, that phrase is usually innocu- ous, but within this context it perpetuates the sense of victimhood that grows over a lifetime that includes seg- regation, poverty, violence, crime and disrespect.

During the after-service press conference, a number of the participating pas- tors encouraged those in at- tendance to sign a petition “letting our decision makers know what we desire.” Some of the topics mentioned for inclusion in the petition inc l u d e d gun con- trol, jobs for un- employed A f r i c a n Americans and better education. Sadly, the last time an African American p e t i t i o n led to sig- nificant re- form was 50 years ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

There is virtually no chance of this petition or any other being given even a passing glance by the Republicancontrolled U.S. Congress or Supreme Court. In the State of Wisconsin, the Repub- lican majority of all three branches of government is so large at the moment that they can do virtually anything they desire without fear of a Democratic veto.

Instead of appealing to the deaf ears of the conservative money machine currently in power, those African Americans who are mentally and physically able need to take more personal responsibility for their own fate. Republicans are currently attempting to make it more difficult for minorities to vote. That is one of the most important ways to bring about a change in the priorities of federal and state officials, yet the percentage of African Americans who bother to show up and vote is generally well below other races. Voting was not mentioned in the petition.

The African American community really needs to have an honest conversation with itself first. Do we really treat each other with dignity and respect? How about when the young woman behind the cash register at the fast food store rings up the order incorrectly or when we are late for an appointment and the car ahead won’t go faster than the speed limit? Blacks are by far the largest victim of black crime if any further proof is needed. The black businessman who’s already at a disadvantage is frequently asked to perform a service cheaper than a Caucasian who is never asked to discount a service. Then consider our lack of respect and disdain for each other, which yields a lack of solidarity and nothing ever gets accomplished collectively. Instead of whining about what other races are denying us, it’s past time that we roll up our sleeves and work together for a unified and common purpose that will benefit our race like other races are doing. Continually repeating the same old doctrine we’ve done too many generations means we haven’t learned very much over time and don’t have a heart or soul to perpetuate a new ideology for purposeful change.

There are plenty of common sense solutions we can employ in our own neighborhoods. When a drug dealer or other criminal operates in a neighborhood it is seldom a well-kept secret. Sadly the history of black and police relations is mostly a long, bitter tale of betrayals and injustice. Petitions are not the solution to police profiling.

Signing a petition demanding a job paying a living wage is unrealistic. No one is going ‘to give someone a job’ for very long if that person does not add value to the business. There are many reasons why Milwaukee has one of the lowest number of minorityowned businesses of any major U.S. city, but one obvious conclusion is that African Americans in Milwaukee are not spending money in the few businesses that do exist in their neighborhoods.